Before losing my precious items that were in a storage facility, I had many of my literature books from my college days. As an English major, they meant a lot to me. They went wherever I went and lined my bookshelves at every dwelling. They seemed to patiently wait for my full attention.
But time ran out and the Universe chose to relieve me of them in circumstances that were beyond my control. Yet, I have a photographic memory of how the books looked as they lined my shelves. I had always intended to read each one in its entirety.
During my college days, I had a full class load, worked almost full-time as a cashier at A& P and added some semblance of a social life to the formula. There was little time for in-depth reading, so many of us found short-cuts through both student collaborations and using the ever-trusty Cliff Notes as we muddled through those essays and exams.
I can still see my Emily Dickinson book with its pink and white cover and my Walt Whitman poetry collection with its green and white cover. I had other titles such as Henry James’ Daisy Miller and Frank Norris’ The Octopus along with my beloved anthologies of both American and English Literature.
So, now that I have a reprieve, I am taking the time to play catch-up. I am paying my debt to the literary Universe by truly reading and digesting the great works of those assigned authors from long ago. Maturity and life experiences are now on my side as I seek to understand why these books were on the syllabus.
On the American front, I have had the pleasure of delving deep into Emily Dickinson’s poems and even visited her home in Amherst. Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass immediately touched me, so no dues are needed there. But recently, I truly enjoyed The Pit by Frank Norris which is about the financial district of Chicago around the turn into the 20th century. I am still reflecting on that book!
On the British front, I have read Fanny Burney’s Evelina. She was the forerunner of Jane Austen and many of Austen’s plots and characters mirror Burney’s choices.
Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters and Cranford offered insight into Victorian life and she was a friend to Charlotte Bronte. Bronte’s father even asked Gaskell to write Charlotte’s biography. What an honor!
I am currently reading the digital format of Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie. Again, it takes place in Chicago at the turn into the 20th century. The lure and trappings of the big city have Carrie, a young Wisconsin woman, making some rash decisions. Will she come out okay as she shuffles between her two suitors? Who knows? I will just have to keep scrolling forward as the plot truly thickens while I play catch up on a few more classics!
Lynn M. June 8, 2019